Something happened Monday that should grab the attention of Republicans in Alabama.
In a striking 49-page opinion, a three-judge appellate court panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s appeal to move the Georgia election interference case against him from state to federal court.
Chief Judge William Pryor, Jr., an Alabama native and a conservative icon, wrote the unanimous opinion. His words were piercing: “At bottom, whatever the chief of staff’s role with respect to state election administration, that role does not include altering valid election results in favor of a particular candidate.”
These words, “altering valid election results,” echo ominously. They reflect the severity of the accusations against Meadows and, by extension, former President Donald Trump in the Georgia election interference case.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has accused Meadows of playing a significant role in this alleged interference, conspiring to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia.
The indictment starkly claims: “Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.”
This indictment has fueled a belief among many Alabama Republicans and others nationwide that this is all part of a grand conspiracy to deny Trump his rightful second term. They cling to the conviction that Trump won the 2020 presidential contest, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger illustrates this point. Trump, in a desperate bid, pressured Raffensperger to “find” just enough votes to overturn his defeat in the state. This call, thoroughly documented and reported, showcased Trump’s relentless efforts to manipulate the election results.
At one point on the call, Trump told Raffensperger, “What I want to do is this. I just want to find, uh, 11,780 votes, which is one more than [the 11,779-vote margin of defeat] we have, because we won the state.”
Meadows, who has pleaded not guilty in Georgia, requested that his case be moved, claiming protections under a federal statute. This statute grants federal officers the right to transfer legal cases against them from state to federal court when the charges are related to their official duties.
Judge Pryor’s opinion in the 11th Circuit found, “Even if Meadows were ‘an officer,’ his participation in an alleged conspiracy to overturn a presidential election was not related to his official duties.” This statement, supported by Judges Robin Rosenbaum and Nancy Abudu, highlights a significant legal judgment.
Chief Judge Pryor is no stranger to conservative principles, and his refusal to favor Meadows speaks volumes. It suggests that even within conservative legal circles, there’s a limit to partisan loyalty when it comes to upholding the rule of law.
This case is more than just about Meadows or even Trump. It’s a litmus test for the conservative judiciary, particularly those who hold Pryor in high regard. It’s unlikely that even the conservative wing of the United States Supreme Court would overturn this decision.
We’re not debating the innocence or guilt of Meadows or Trump here. Rather, this case offers a glimpse into how committed conservatives view the rule of law. It’s a moment for Alabama Republicans to reflect: If a legal heavyweight like Pryor won’t bend the law for Meadows, the same will likely hold true for Trump. This isn’t just a legal judgment; it’s a moral and ethical one, underscoring the fundamental principle that the rule of law stands above partisan politics.